Five Ways Running for Office and Being a Flight Attendant Are Exactly the Same

I recently announced that I would be running for public office in Vermont. For those of you who haven't known me for longer than five minutes, being an elected official has been my goal since I was ten years old.
Along my political journey, I was lucky enough to begin my career as a Flight Attendant, which is perfect because in Vermont we have a part-time citizen legislature. All of our Representatives and Senators have other jobs because they only convene four days a week for about four months of the year.

I don't plan on writing about politics much on this blog- this is a space for packing tips, products I'm in love with, and my advice on applying to be a Flight Attendant.

That said, I have noticed five ways in which my life in the sky and my life in politics intersect.

5. You deal with the public.

There are people in this world who find interacting with the general public to be challenging and exhausting. I don't. I'm an extrovert's extrovert.
My favorite thing about being a Flight Attendant? It's the people. 
I love meeting passengers and coworkers who have completely different life experiences than I do. I adore interacting with locals on my layovers, learning about the place they live and how they live there.

People are also my favorite part about running for office.
The best part of politics is helping people. Whether it's connecting a constituent to a service they need, answering questions about the democratic process, registering a first time voter, or answering questions about my positions on the issues, the best part of all of this is the opportunity to help people. 

4. You know how to be patient and calm with people who don't understand the rules.

On the aircraft, the rules we enforce are to keep you safe. Most of those rules come from the Federal Aviation Administration and are the result of studying what has gone wrong in the past when an accident or situation has resulted in injury or loss of life. For example: you're required to put your seat backs forward, your tray tables up, and to stow your bags completely under the seat in front of you for takeoff and landing because those are two very vulnerable times during a flight. Those are the two points when you're most likely to have to evacuate the aircraft, and if (God forbid) that needed to happen, your reclined seat, open table, and bag could impede that evacuation process. So when we ask you to do those things, it's not because we're being controlling, it's because we want you to be safe.

When running for office, you're more likely to run into someone who isn't familiar with how to register to vote, where to get an absentee ballot, or a volunteer who isn't familiar with the legal requirements of the campaign trail. These things are less likely to compromise an individual's physical safety, but they are critically important to your future. Civic responsibility and engagement are extremely important parts of being a citizen of this great country.

If I encounter confusion or resistance in either situation, I just explain the rules with a smile, offer information, and ask the person I'm interacting with (politely) to change what they're doing.

3. You know how to follow the law.

As a Flight Attendant, if it's a Federal Aviation Regulation applicable to the aircraft cabin, you have it memorized and you follow it. As a political candidate, you follow all kinds of laws about campaign donations, financial disclosures, and many other things. (Examples: how far a sign can be from a road, and laws about putting pamphlets in mailboxes.)

If you're lucky enough to win an election, you're going to be making the laws so you'd sure as heck better be good at following the law. 

2. You're trained to be calm in a crisis.

I constantly encounter people on and off the plane who have absolutely NO idea that Flight Attendants are on the aircraft to protect passengers in an emergency. Our main job has nothing to do with offering you coffee, tea, or water. In the air, we are the police, the fire fighters, the EMTs, the counselors, and anything else that needs to be done to ensure that our passengers are safe. Trust me, you could absolutely pour your own drinks and you can bring your own snacks, but I'd like to see you evacuate a burning airplane with 180 people on it in under 90 seconds.

During a political campaign, there will be many twists and turns. Some of those can throw you for a loop. You just have to be calm, methodical, and as we say in the aviation industry, your training will kick in. 

1. The sexism.

Depressingly, the number one way that being a Flight Attendant is exactly like being a woman running for public office is the sexism.

I don't just mean the sexual harassment that can so frequently occur on the airplane,
I mean the constant undercurrent of skepticism whenever I tell anyone, male or female, that I'm a Flight Attendant. People hear "flight attendant" and they think "ditzy", "stupid", and "brainless".

When I tell people I'm running for office, it takes them a second to wrap their heads around it because I'm young, I'm blonde, and I'm female.

The last time I ran, other candidates in the race made comments to me about the large purse I carried ("Did you bring lunch for all of us in that thing?"), my physical appearance, and my clothes.

Now, some people might say "Oh, they were just joking! They didn't mean anything by it."
I'm actually pretty good at not being offended when I can tell that people aren't being malicious. I generally don't mind when people call me a stewardess instead of a flight attendant, as long as they aren't being intentionally derogatory.
Here's a good way of determining if your comment or joke is sexist: ask yourself, "Would I make the same comment about a man?"
If the answer is no, you're being sexist, and no matter how accidental it may be, it's wrong.

Some people use age as a stand in for gender.
They might say "Well, you're awfully young." but sometimes what they mean is "What could you possibly know about hard work? You're just a girl."
There are people who have questioned, and who will continue to question, if I'm qualified to run for public office given my age. To anyone wondering about that: my age is an asset.
We need to have diverse voices that represent our electorate sitting in our chambers of government.
In Vermont, 35% of our population is between the ages of 20 and 44. 
Our median age is 38. 
And yet, the average age in our House of Representatives is 60 years old. 

51% of our population is female, but only 41% of our State Legislators are female.

In order to live up to the promise of our democracy, we need to have voices at the table that are representative of our population.

The best way to fight sexism in the sky or on the ground is by raising awareness, talking about it, and being bold.

So basically, in the words if the indomitable Leslie Knope:

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